Lavatory Lament

Ever since Scowl and Little Guy were old enough to stand on a footstool in front of the toilet and do their “whizzness”, I have instructed, encouraged and implored them to put the seat down when they are done.

Yes, I am out-numbered three-to-one in my house – unless you count the female fish, but they have been dead for several years, flushed to meet their maker through the very object with which I often take issue – or tissue, whichever the case may be.

My husband remembers to put the seat down 99% of the time. My boys?  100%, but only if you combine their success rates. I understand that it takes precious moments to do the thing I request, and who has that kind of time to waste when Play-stations and refrigerators beckon like rope-swings in the woods? My sons’ education is a work-in-progress. But, if marriage or even cohabitation is in their futures, I must ensure that they graduate Bathroom Etiquette 101 before leaving my tutelage.

Lately, though, I have been reminded that a man’s lavatory manners should exceed the boundaries of his own home.  Men always want to know how women feel, or, at least they think it’s important to us so they ask.  As a fairly mid-line representative of my gender, I have one piece of essential intelligence to impart: in public, women’s washrooms are sacred.

This, I realize, is a bit of an oxymoron.  There is nothing holy about any public toilet.  Typically, they are all a degree of disgusting, but the ladies’ room is still sacrosanct to its visitors and much less vile than, say, the men’s room.  Urinals are gross to those who don’t use them and the stalls are even more cringe-worthy because we know exactly what goes on in them.  In the ladies’ room, when one enters a cubicle, one is never certain precisely what transpired just before.  We imagine dainty Number Ones only; that’s our prerogative. 

Besides, with regard to washroom habits, women are simply neater. It is biologically obvious.  While we are compelled to share our bathrooms at home with whoever else resides there, out in  public there is an unspoken rule between women and those other people: we don’t enter yours and you don’t enter ours.

Last week, I arrived at my gym after a tense drive in one of the only snowstorms we’ve endured thus far, this season. As a Torontonian, the nearly two centimetres of snow had me coiled extra tight.  Understandably, once my body relaxed, I experienced the urge “to go”, in this case, to really go, to hop up and down, cross my legs, think- of- the- desert go. My work-out place has only single men’s and women’s washrooms and much to my vexation, the door to “Women” was locked.  I waited and waited and waited.  A personal trainer walked out of the Men’s, registered my mounting panic and offered me entrance to his room.

“No, thanks,” I said.  Not unless I’m extremely dead, I thought.

Placing my ear near the door to the ladies’, at long last I heard a flush and the sound of tap water running, welcome even though it fuelled my urge.  I stepped back as the lock jiggled and the door finally opened to reveal – a middle-aged man in tennis whites.

I can only imagine the outraged expression on my face at this unwelcome apparition. The guilty party looked at me and turned beet red.  “Sorry,” he said, brushing by me.  “So sorry.”

Disgruntled but desperate, I entered the room and noted that the seat was down.  Either the intruder had been well trained by his old mother or else he had been seated.  I didn’t much like the choices, but need trumped aversion.

I had recognized the man as a regular – pardon the pun – and as I made my way to a treadmill I saw him lifting weights.  He surreptitiously glanced at me between sets, but quickly looked away when I met his eyes.  I know that I will see this man often because we visit the gym on an over-lapping schedule.  Now, instead of a benign smile or nod of the head, we will avoid each other’s eyes, his dirty little secret hanging above us like a soot cloud after a fire. I imagine approaching the “faux pas fellow” one of these days and saying, “I forgive you your indiscretion.  Just don’t let it happen again.”

 But, I am too polite, too repressed or maybe too sadistic.  Part of me likes it that he will squirm when he sees me although I admit I would enjoy it more if I didn’t squirm, too.

This experience has led me to rethink my parenting skills.  I need to widen the net of manners for my boys.  It isn’t enough that they become considerate partners or house-mates.  I can’t rest until they are also bonafide citizens of public restrooms.  I have been thinking about embroidering a pillow, my first:

Where ever you roam, whatever you do,

Stay the hell out of the ladies’ loo.

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